Lenni-Lanape story has moral mes­sages for hol­i­day sea­son

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - NEWS - Don Scott Don “Og­be­wii” Scott, a Mel­rose Park res­i­dent, can be reached at [email protected] More in­for­ma­tion about his lo­cal his­tory books can be found at kum­bayah-universal.com.

A cap­ti­vat­ing story of the Delaware tribe’s Lenni-Le­nape peo­ple, who first in­hab­ited south­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia near such lo­cal wa­ter­ways as the Ta­cony, Wis­sahickon and Pen­ny­pack be­fore be­ing pushed west by set­tlers to dis­tant places like Ok­la­homa, has po­tent moral mes­sages for the hol­i­day sea­son.

“The Hunter and The Owl” tale, as told by Richard C. Adams way back in 1905 for the book “Leg­ends of the Delaware In­di­ans” that was edited by Deb­o­rah Ni­chols, fo­cuses on the fate­ful en­counter be­tween a de­ter­mined hunter and the wise bird with ex­tra­or­di­nary preda­tory pow­ers and in­stincts.

As the story goes, af­ter trav­el­ing with his wife “on a long hunt quite a way from the vil­lage,” a proud hunter wasn’t hav­ing much luck find­ing prey, ac­cord­ing to the ac­count that I found at delaware­tribe.org, a web­site of the Delaware tribe.

As the cou­ple sat around the camp­fire be­moan­ing the sit­u­a­tion, “an owl hooted from a tree near by and af­ter hoot­ing laughed.”

But in­stead of get­ting of­fended, the hunter “con­sid­ered [it] a good omen, but to make sure of this [he] took a chunk of fire and re­tired a lit­tle way from the camp un­der the tree where the owl was perched, and laid the chunk of fire on the ground, and sit­ting by it be­gan to sprin­kle tobacco on the live coal and talk to the owl,” prob­a­bly to “but­ter up” the feath­ery crea­ture.

Re­fer­ring to the owl as “Mo­hoo-mus (or Grand­fa­ther),” the hunter of­fered the sa­ga­cious bird an ir­re­sistible deal.

“I know that you are very fond of the fat of the deer and that you can ex­er­cise in­flu­ence over the game if you will,” the hunter ex­claimed. “I want you to bring much game in my way, not only deer, but fur-bear­ing an­i­mals, so that I may re­turn home with a boun­ti­ful sup­ply of furs as well as much dried meat and I will prom­ise you that from the largest deer that I kill, I will give you the fat and heart, of which you are very fond.”

Likely stretch­ing his huge eyes even more, the owl re­ally perked up when the hunter added, “I will hang them in a tree so that you can get them.”

Not­ing that the laugh­ing owl was over­joyed with the of­fer, “the hunter knew that he would get much game af­ter that.”

Yet, when the hunter soon har­vested “a very large buck,” he be­came so ex­cited that he for­got to fol­low through with the prom­ise that he had made to the great owl.

Tremen­dously of­fended, the owl cursed the hunter, warn­ing him that death would be his eter­nal pun­ish­ment.

The hunter, how­ever, re­buffed the wide-eyed bird, coun­ter­ing with cast­ing a death curse upon the mighty owl.

Yet, as each be­gan to get very tired, the threat of loom­ing death forced them to rec­on­cile. “My good hunter, I will re­call my curse and help you all I can, if you will re­call yours, and we will be friends af­ter this,” of­fered the owl.

And to show his good faith, “the hunter lay the deer down and took out the fat and the heart and hung them up” so that the great owl, or “Grand­fa­ther,” might en­joy the de­lec­ta­ble feast.

Con­se­quently, the deer was “much lighter” as the hunter “car­ried it to his camp with per­fect ease” where his await­ing wife “dressed the deer and cut up strips of the best meat and hung them up to dry” as “the hunter went out again and soon re­turned with other game.”

Just like the hunter, when we cor­rect our wrongs and “do the right thing,” our bur­dens psy­cho­log­i­cally be­come much less heavy. We’re then able to move for­ward with guilt­less op­ti­mism.

In fact, the Lenni-Le­nape cou­ple was re­warded over the next few days with “all the furs and dried meat they could both carry to their home,” with the hunter learn­ing a valu­able les­son: Never break a prom­ise!

The story also stresses the im­por­tance of set­tling fric­tion be­tween two par­ties by com­mu­ni­cat­ing and rec­on­cil­ing, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing that most folks have com­mon goals to be happy and har­mo­nious dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son that can of­ten be quite stress­ful.

It’s best, as the hunter and the owl demon­strate, to ac­knowl­edge a part­ner’s value and work to­gether in har­mony.

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